Efforts continue to find those missing since grace period to return lapsed More than 300 failed abode applicants are still hiding in Hong Kong two years after the deadline for them to return to the mainland. The Immigration Department said 649 failed claimants remained, including 343 who had gone into hiding since the grace period for them to go back to the mainland lapsed on April 1, 2002. The rest either have cases being processed by the department or are involved in unresolved legal battles. A department source said while it was becoming harder to arrest abode seekers who had absconded, operations would continue to locate them. 'There are also abode seekers surrendering to us from time to time, especially before festive holidays when they decide to return to their mainland homes,' the source said. About 9,000 abode seekers were in Hong Kong before the Court of Final Appeal ruled against most of the claimants on January 10, 2002. The government later imposed a grace period and said all failed claimants must return home by March 31. A total of 4,721 failed claimants returned to the mainland before the grace period ended and 3,045 left after it. A further 194 failed claimants have been allowed to stay in Hong Kong on the grounds that they had a legitimate expectation the government would carry out the January 29, 1999, ruling by the Court of Final Appeal in favour of abode seekers. That ruling was effectively overturned following the reinterpretation of the Basic Law by the National People's Congress Standing Committee in June 1999. The Director of Immigration has so far exercised discretionary power to allow 77 failed claimants to stay on special humanitarian grounds. Immigration officers last conducted an arrest operation in November, which netted five absconders. A source said that while some of the absconded abode seekers were unco-operative during the raids, others put up little resistance and there had been no forced entries. The chairman of the Hong Kong Parents Association for Fighting for Children's Right of Abode, Lin Tao-cheng, yesterday vowed to continue the fight for residency for their mainland children. 'We will continue with our battle, regardless of how society has changed,' Mr Lin said.